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See also: Corbeau


Corbeau (Black Vulture)
Corbeaux carting away plague victims


Borrowed from French corbeau (raven).


corbeau (plural corbeaux)

  1. The black vulture, Coragyps atratus.
    • 2011, V. S. Naipaul, A Way in the World, →ISBN:
      The local corbeaux, black, heavy, hunched, hopped about the slopes of rubbish; the children of the shanty town ran between the traffic on the rubbish-strewn highway to get to the dump.
    • 2014, Lawrence Scott, Night Calypso, →ISBN:
      A whale man, if you see a whale. It beach. It taking up the whole of La Tinta. You not see the corbeaux? The Marines say they think it must be dead.
    • 2016, Elizabeth Nunez, Prospero's Daughter, →ISBN, page 317:
      Across the blue sky, a big black bird, a vulture, a corbeau. It swooped down low and landed, its long, ringed legs trembling as it anchored itself on the branch of a thick-trunked tree. Around it, more corbeaux, cemetery gargoyles guarding the dead.
  2. (historical) A man who carts away the dead plague victims.
    • 1972, David Victor Glass, Roger Revelle, Population and social change, page 234:
      By 8 August, it was necessary to conscript beggars to bury the dead because the corbeaux, special bearers of plague-striken corpses, no longer sufficed for the task.
    • 2001, A Social History of the Cloister, →ISBN, page 212:
      The next day she died and her body was removed by the corbeaux (the men who carted away the dead) - an ignominious death like that of Jesus Christ, wrote the annalist.
    • 2012, Marie-Hélène Huet, The Culture of Disaster, →ISBN, page 28:
      By late summer, the magistrates themselves admitted their helplessness. They called in the notorious and dreaded corbeaux—convicts promised a commutation of their sentence in exchange for performing the dangerous task of removing the bodies.
  3. A very dark shade of green, almost black.

Related terms[edit]



Inherited from Middle French corbeau, from Old French corbel, itself either a diminutive of corp (raven), corf, or from a Late Latin corbellus, corvellus, from Latin corvus (Vulgar Latin variant *corbus).


  • IPA(key): /kɔʁ.bo/
  • (file)


corbeau m (plural corbeaux, feminine corbelle)

  1. raven, crow (bird)
  2. poison-pen letter writer
  3.  (architecture, masonry) corbel
  4.  (astronomy) Corvus
  5.  (historical) body collector (during a plague)
  6.  (historical) corvus (grappling hook used by the Romans in naval warfare)
  7.  (dated, derogatory) priest
  8.  (viticulture) douce noir (a variety of grape)

Usage notes[edit]

  • Like the English word raven, corbeau refers most strictly to the common raven (Corvus corax), but is also used in the vernacular names of various species in the genus Corvus. However, corbeau is used more broadly than raven, and encompasses some species which are known in English as crows. In colloquial usage it may refer to crows, rooks, and other black corvids like jackdaws and choughs.

Derived terms[edit]

Further reading[edit]

Middle French[edit]


From Old French corbel.


corbeau m (plural corbeaulx)

  1. crow (bird)


  • French: corbeau
  • English: corbie
  • Scots: corbie